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Complex Inlay with Epoxy, Lasers, & Vacuum

Complex Inlay with Epoxy, Lasers, & Vacuum

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Question:

Hello, I’m interested in attempting a very complex inlay project. Back in high school I did two small inlay projects with about 6 pieces each using a solid veneer and contact adhesive. This part however has about 90 pieces. They fit together to form the inside of a 48 in diameter table top. I've read that the best way to put pieces down is with a vacuum press. Here at school, I've got equipment that can do that, but most the online info I've found only shows techniques for contact adhesive application. Since there are so many pieces, I’m wondering what steps can be taken to keep them from shifting around and creating gaps. If I use an epoxy adhesive I can have up to several hours to position all the pieces but it seems like they might move on me while I’m getting everything situated under vacuum. Any suggestions? I've also got access to a laser cutting machine. Since each individual piece is already precisely defined on my computer, it would be easy to program the laser to do all the cutting. Does anyone have any experience cutting these veneers with a laser? I know that this process leaves a slight burn mark around the edges but perhaps it doesn't adversely effective the fit or finish. I've been able to cleanly cut balsa wood and light (1/4″ birch) plywood, but have never tried a veneer. Finally, since I need to sand the surface to get everything level, what type of veneer should I use? I realize that there are thickness issues that may lead to sand-through s. How thick is the actual wood layer in the BFV material? 

Thanks, 

Ian Whittinghill

Answer:


Well let’s start with your first real issue. It shouldn't make any difference how you cut your individual pieces, whether you cut with a laser or something else, if using a laser just adjust your wattage to minimize the scorching . The only way to keep this entire inlay together would be to tape it with veneer tape. This is how it’s normally done. The veneer tape is removable after the pressing is completed. I would suggest using raw veneer because it is a little thicker than a paper backed veneer and would allow a slightly higher margin for error when sanding. You would be less likely to experience a sand through. The one thing you mention that should never be done is to use raw veneer with contact cement. Any veneering done this way is surely doomed for failure. Lastly, the actual veneer thickness on Bubble Free Veneer is on about .0013″-.0015″ and the paperback comprises about .0020″. Like I said earlier, this doesn’t allow for much margin of error when sanding flat. I hope this sheds enough light on your project. Always feel free to call and ask for technical help.

Oakwood Veneer Technical Support